Last night in Papa John’s stadium, it appeared another chaotic November giant killing was underway as Wake Forest sauntered to the locker room with a 12-3 lead over sixth-ranked Louisville.
The Deacs controlled the ball for 21:19 of the 30 minutes played in the first half and emotions from an ugly win against a subpar Duke team where resurfacing in Louisville fans. A macabre energy took hold of the stadium at halftime. Fans nervously guzzled beers in the bowels of Papa John’s where suggestions of a Russell Athletic Bowl fate or worse could be overheard.
Morale would not improve when the second-half commenced. Louisville was immediately flagged for a holding penalty which gave Wake Forest the field position advantage they enjoyed for most of the first half. The ‘Cards ended up punting on the next possession and the ‘Deacs made some headway to the Louisville 37-yard-line, before they failed to convert a fourth down attempt. This swung momentum back in Louisville’s favor and two plays later this happened:
Brandon Radcliff’s explosive 55-yard touchdown run was the counter-punch stunned Wake Forest and gave the ‘Cards renewed energy, but something still seemed off.
Wake Forest punted on their ensuing drive, and again Louisville started their drive deep from their own 17-yard-line. On the first play of that drive however, Lamar Jackson ripped off an explosive 55-yard run which flipped field position and ignited the home crowd. But it was all for nought as Blanton Crique missed a 43-yard field goal wide-left.
Wake Forest and Louisville would exchange punts and the game sped into the fourth quarter with the Demon Deacons up 12-10 and in possession of the football.
Then it happened. The ‘Cards sprung off the ropes like Muhammad Ali in the fourth round of the Rumble in the Jungle. All those third down conversions and field goals that did little damage on the scoreboard seemed like an insignificant waste of energy. After James Hearns sacked Wake’s John Wolford and forced a punt, Louisville marched right down the field capped by a seven-yard Brandon Radcliff touchdown run.
“Beat the body down and the mind will follow, and that’s what we did, we just kept beatin’ the body,” remarked Keith Kelsey after the game.
That mantra was manifested by Lousville in the fourth quarter. After the ‘Cards went up 16-12, special teams captain Devonte Peete blocked a Dom Maggio punt giving Lousville possession at the Wake 47. Four plays later, three of which were gashing runs, Radcliff broke off a 19-yard-touchdown run giving the ‘Cards an insurmountable 23-12 lead.
While the fight was over at that point, the beating had just begun. The defense decided they wanted to land some haymakers and Devonte Fields racked up two sacks on the ensuing Wake Forest drive, the later knocked starting quarterback John Wofford out of the game. Louisville would score again courtesy of a two-yard-touchdown pass to Cole Hikutini that left Wake Forest staggering in the ring down 30-12 on the score card. On the next Wake possession, junior cornerback Ronald Walker snagged an errant throw from third string signal caller Kyle Kearns and took it to the house, opening a gapping cut under the eye of the Demon Deacons, pushing the lead to 37-12.
Someone should have thrown in the towel at that point but Louisville’s offense continued bludgeoning Wake Forest defenders with a steady barrage of ground and pound. With the crowd crying for more blood with chants of “run it up Bobby,” Louisville called simple run plays that the woozy Wake Forrest defense couldn’t counter. A four-play 52-yard drive, of nothing but simple runs off-tackle, delivered the knock out blow as Malik Williams scored from two yards out, marking Louisville’s fifth touchdown of the fourth quarter.
After the game head coach Bobby Petrino was asked if the touchdown in the last minute was something he had to do for the committee.
“No, we were just running the ball … Did you want us to take a knee? We’re not gonna take a knee in that situation, there’s two minutes left in the game, you hand the ball off and run the clock out,” replied Petrino.
Wake Forest had nothing left in the tank and couldn’t stop third string running back Malik Williams from punching it in the end zone in clock kill mode. That is a testament to his team’s depth, his players’ resolve and his training staffs’ conditioning work. As the game wore on, all three facets, offense, defense, and special teams, started landing power punches and showed they were deeper and more physical than a tough Wake Forest team that came into the contest giving up an average of 18 points per game.
Louisville will have to rebound quickly from this one however, as they travel to Houston to take on Greg Ward and the Cougars. After some early season bumps
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